(first posted 6/6/2017) The IKA/Renault Torino, produced first by Industrias Kaiser Argentina and then by Renault from 1966 to 1982, has become a minor legend in the North American auto enthusiast world and a genuine legend in its home country of Argentina for being what many hoped that Detroit would build: a compact and stylish grand touring car with all-around performance capable of taking on the best from Europe. The body and engine of the humble 1964 Rambler American providing its foundation has only added to its mystique. Paul’s January 2016 profile of this South American classic told its story quite thoroughly, but a spotting on the street in Buenos Aires compels another look.
The Pininfarina restyling of the boxy and plain Rambler American is even more beautiful seen in person than in pictures, helped in this case by a period color that has disappeared today. From its bold four-light front end with rearing-bull badge to its simple and elegant roofline and subtly arched beltline, this small and low-slung coupe looks like it belongs among Alfa Romeos, Lancias, and other classic Italian gran turismos of the 1960s.
This example also has the six-taillight rear styling of the early 1970s, barely visible in this photo. The styling details and color make it look identical to a 1972 Torino listed on Bring a Trailer in 2008 and sold for a mere $6,500, purchased out of Torrance, California by a collector in the Netherlands. I would like to think that a deep-pocketed Argentine later sought out a Southern California-preserved piece of his country’s motoring heritage and returned it to its native country, although this scenario is probably unlikely.
Lest anyone worry from the graffiti and barred windows in the first photo that this Torino was parked in a gritty and dangerous neighborhood, this photo gives an indication that it was actually in one of the most trendy areas of Buenos Aires, the Palermo Soho district that is exactly analogous to New York’s Soho, with art galleries, expensive boutiques, and smart restaurants and cafes along with historic cobblestone streets. The location and the Automobile Club of Argentina (Automovil Club Argentino) badge on the grille indicate that this Torino is owned by a genuine automobile enthusiast and man about town, exactly the sort who would have owned it when new. It is an appropriate setting for this Argentine classic that made a sophisticated grand touring car out of a plain-Jane vehicle from Kenosha, Wisconsin.